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Ram Setu - (Sethusamudram)

Ram Setu -Sethusamudram

Some claim that this land bridge is the site of the famous Rama's Bridge, making it a historical, religious and cultural monument of great significance. For this reason, many, including chief ministers of states, oppose the project.

Several claims and estimates have been made regarding the age of Rama's bridge and its relation to the Indian epic Ramayana.

  • Rama’s bridge is only 3,500 years old: CRS {Source: Indian Express}: "Ramasamy explains that the land/beaches were formed between Ramanathapuram and Pamban because of the long shore drifting currents which moved in an anti-clockwise direction in the north and clockwise direction in the south of Rameswaram and Talaimannar about 3,500 years ago. ... But as the carbon dating of the beaches roughly matches the dates of Ramayana, its link to the epic needs to be explored, he adds.
  • Rama Setu is NOT a natural formation: Dr. Badrinarayanan, former director of Geological Survey of India and a member of the National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT) says the Adam's Bridge was not a natural formation."Such a natural formation is impossible. Unless somebody has transported them and dumped them there, those reefs could not have come there. Some boulders were so light that they could float on water.
  • The Geological Survey of India conducted a detailed survey of the area and concluded that the structure was a natural one. A premier institute had made 91 boreholes in and around the site to ascertain the truth and the soil samples kept at the Sethu Project Office could be verified."
  • Rama Setu IS a natural formation: American space agency NASA has said that the structure of sand bars and rocks situated in the Palk Strait between India and Sri Lanka, known as Ram Sethu or Adam's Bridge in maps, is a natural phenomenon and not a man-made structure. This was announced on Saturday by N K Raghupathy, CEO, Sethusamudram Corp Ltd, at a press conference when he revealed the contents of an email received in this regard from NASA's Johnson Space Centre. A few days back, the company sent an email to NASA to know whether Ram Sethu was a made-made structure

 

  • The Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project proposes linking the Palk Bay and the Gulf of Mannar between India and Sri Lanka by creating a shipping canal through the shallow sea sometimes called Setu Samudram, and through the island chain of Rama's Bridge, also known as Adam's Bridge. This would provide a continuous navigable sea route around the Indian Peninsula. The project involves digging a 44.9 nautical mile (83 km) long deepwater channel linking the shallow water of the Palk Strait with the Gulf of Mannar. Conceived as early as 1860 by Alfred Dundas Taylor, it recently received approval of the Indian government.

History

Possibly conceived in 1860 by Commander A. D. Taylor of the Indian Marines, the project has been reviewed many times over the years but no decision was ever made. It was part of the election manifestos of all political parties during elections. The Union Government of India appointed the Sethu Samudram Project Committee in 1955, headed by Dr. A. Ramasamy Mudaliar, which was charged with the duty of examining the desirability of the project. After evaluating the costs and benefits, this committee found the project feasible and viable. Several reviews of the proposals followed. Finally, the United Progressive Alliance Government of India headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the inauguration of the project on June 2, 2005.

 

Benefits

The strategic advantages to India derive from obtaining a navigable sea route close to the coast, with a reduction in travel distance of more than 350 nautical miles (650 km) (for larger ships). The project is expected to provide a boost to the economic and industrial development of coastal Tamil Nadu. The project will be of particular significance to Tuticorin harbour, which has the potential to transform itself into a nodal port. The State Government has announced its proposal to develop 13 minor ports, including Ennore, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam, Thondi, Valinokam, Kolachel and Kanyakumari.

Development of the canal and ports is also expected to provide increased maritime security for Tamil Nadu.

Environmental

  • Marine life:

Though there has been a demand from various quarters for the implementation of the project, there is also opposition to it from environmentalists. They point out that the dredging of the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar could affect the ecology of the zone by changing currents, which could:

  • cause changes in temperature, salinity, turbidity and flow of nutrients
  • cause oilspills from ship and other marine pollution to reach the coastal areas and specifically the sensitive ecosystems of the Gulf of Mannar
  • lead to higher tides and to more energetic waves, and hence to coastal erosion.
  • affect the local sea temperature and thereby alter the pattern of sea-breezes and hence affect rainfall patterns.

They also point out that dredging the canal could stir up the dust and toxins that lie beneath the sea bed, affecting marine life. The emptying of bilge water from ships travelling through the hitherto impassable areas could diperse invasive species through the ecosystems of the area.

These effects could endanger precious marine species and wealth. The Gulf of Mannar has 3,600 species of plants and animals and is India's biologically richest coastal region. Mammal species which abound in the area are sperm whales, dolphins and dugongs. The Gulf of Mannar is especially known for its corals: the portion in Indian territorial waters has 117 species of corals, belonging to 37 genera. Associated with these ecosystems are many varieties of fish and crustaceans. Marine life on the Sri Lankan side, which is better protected, is even richer. The Bar Reef off the Kalpitiya peninsular alone has 156 species of coral and 283 of fish; there are two other coral reef systems around Mannar and Jaffna. There are extensive banks of oysters, as well as Indian Chank and Sea Cucumbers, especially in the seas adjacent to Mannar. The pearl fisheries south of Mannar, which inspired Georges Bizet's opera Les Pêcheurs de Perles, have not been productive for many years, indicating the fragility of these ecosystems in the face of overfishing and of relatively minor changes in the habitat.

However official environmental clearance has been given for the project. The contention that the Sethusamudram Canal will cut through coral reefs and disturb the ecology has been dismissed as a mistaken fear.

The Indian government has conducted various environmental studies which has concluded that such issues are overblown and not based on science. Nevertheless, the fundamental environmentalist objections remain, that

  • the Environmental Impact Assessment carried out by the Indian government was done by a body inexperienced in projects of this nature, was insufficiently detailed and did not consult with all the stakeholders, which included the government and people on the southern side of the proposed project,
  • no proper survey has been carried out of the sea bed to be dredged, and
  • no proper scientific modelling of the effects of the project has been carried out.

After environmental objections were made in Sri Lanka, the Indian government belatedly decided to carry out modelling, but this had not been done before clearance was given for the project. A modelling exercise carried out by Sri Lanka's National Aquatic Resources Research and Development Agency (NARA) indicated that the project would increase the water flow from the Bay of Bengal to the Gulf of Mannar, disturbing the inland water balance as well as the eco-systems in the Gulf. [1] There have also been judicial observations against this project [2].

  • Fishing

On July 2, 2005, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh unveiled the Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project amidst protests from fishermen and environmentalists. Nearly 600 were arrested.

 

 Political and economic

There have been concerns that the dredging would increase the water flow, thus eroding and even submerging the western Jaffna coastline. However as the project is nearly 50 km from the coastline of Sri Lanka few geologists believe it will have any serious harm. Moreover some have chipped in saying that the economic benefits will be mutual for Sri Lanka as much as it is for India by reviving minor ports in Sri Lanka.

The underdeveloped region of Northern Srilanka is currently occupied by LTTE. Sethusamudram project could potentially allow economic benefits to this region. This is being viewed with mutual suspsicon of both Sri Lankan and Tamil leaders. Further it is expected that in addition to Colombo, new ports to be developed near Jaffna.

There has also been criticism expressed, on the basis that the project could damage relations with SriLanka.

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